Signal is a step closer to ditching phone numbers in the name of privacy

Signal logo on the AppStore displayed on a phone screen and Signal logo in the background are seen in this illustration photo taken in Poland on January 14, 2021.
(Image credit: Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Popular encrypted messaging app Signal is a step closer to ditching phone numbers for good, in the name of privacy.

As of November 8, 2023, the app began testing the option of enabling people to share usernames instead of phone numbers to connect with others.

Signal VP of Engineering Jim O’Leary is now inviting the community to sign up and try the new feature, currently in a staging phase of what he describes as "pre-beta" software.

Signal public username testing

"If you’ve been following along with the commit messages across our repositories, it’s no secret that we’ve been working on bringing Usernames to Signal for a while now. After rounds of internal testing, we have hit the point where we think the community that powers these forums can help us test even further before public launch," said O’Leary.

Users willing to test this feature need to install and run a new build while registering for a new account with a phone number. However, during this staging phase, you'll be able to connect via username with other Signal friends who are also enrolled on the staging platform.

O’Leary invites all testers to report any crashes and experiences on how they get along with the new feature to help the team fix issues as they appear. He also warns of "some rough edges in the UX," explaining that's to be expected with pre-beta software.

The test is available for Android, iOS, MacOS, and Windows users. If you wish to take part, we invite you to head to O’Leary's post for all the details. Below, there's also a screenshot of how the new build's settings look.

This is a considerable milestone in the company's commitment to data privacy, as it actively reduces the amount of personal information that a user needs to share in order to engage in private communications.

It also adds to the security of Signal encryption infrastructure. The company is now one of a few encrypted services to have recently added quantum-level encryption to help keep customers safe in a post-quantum world.

While the team has been working on the Usernames feature since at least 2019, doing so has been challenging considering that, according to its privacy policy, the company never collected or stored sensitive information that it doesn’t need to operate, usernames included—noted PCMag.

However, Signal CEO Meredith Whittaker previously confirmed in a recent interview the company's intention to fully roll out the Usernames option in early 2024. At this point, we expect that the date for a full launch will very much depend on how the testing stage plays out.


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Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to